Kankakee County Bar Association
In June 1853, Jeddiah Woodley, Jr. of Will County surveyed Bourbonnais (now the City of Kankakee) for Ketchum & Gray who were trustees for a group of men in New York City who acquired part of the land given Catish Bourbonnais in the Treaty of 1832. Illinois Central Railroad was building into Kankakee, but Momence had a greater population. Ketchum & Gray offered to contribute a block for a Courthouse and $5,000.00 if it was located in Kankakee. Kankakee received the largest number of votes and Block 16 was deeded to the county. An inscription on an 1854 official map reads "donated to the County to be kept forever vacant of buildings except a Court house which is to be placed on the center of the block."
The 1st Kankakee Courthouse was built in 1855 with locally quarried limestone for $22,377.29. The 1st courthouse was damaged by fire on October 5, 1872 with only the limestone walls remaining.
In 1872, a 2nd courthouse was built from the same limestone walls. The 2nd court house was very similar to the first, but supported a tall cupola of square cross div and tall Italian villas style windows.
Twenty years after construction, the roof on the 2nd courthouse was replaced. The new roof was built around the same cupola, but was steeply pitched and the chimneys significantly heightened to provide adequate draft. These changes and removal of the iron decorative work, the courthouse took on a dramatic new appearance.
It was decided not to use the same limestone walls and the 2nd courthouse was demolished in 1908 and 1909 to make way for the present structure.
Zachary Taylor Davis, a noted Chicago architect who designed and help plan Comiskey Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium, also helped design the 3rd Kankakee Courthouse. Davis began his career working with Frank Lloyd Wright when both were draftsman in the offices of Louis Sullivan. Twenty thousand people turned out for the laying of the cornerstone in July 1909. Photographs, newspapers, and documents were sealed in the corner stone.
In 1912, the 3rd courthouse was completed for the cost of $270,000.00 furnished and was paid off in a few short years.
During construction, the county offices were moved across the street to the YMCA building.
The 3rd courthouse was constructed from Bedford limestone and granite in a Greek Revival structure with Baroque features.
Photos of 3rd Courthouse Circa 1970 courtesy of Kankakee County Historical Society.